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April 2019

May 2019

Review: Small Island, National Theatre - "a cracking piece of theatre"

I enjoyed the book, admired the TV adaptation but did the stage adaptation of Andrea Levy's Small Island at the National Theatre hit the mark?

Small Island poster
Small Island is an epic story straddling Jamaica and England before, during and after World War II and exploring colonialism, racism, love and identity.

The novel tells the story from four different characters perspectives but Helen Edmundson's stage adaptation pares it down making the two women Hortense (Leah Harvey) and Queenie (Aisling Loftus) the primary focus.

Hortense and Queenie have very different personalities - the former is well-mannered to the point of being uptight and has a tendency to look down at people while the latter is more convivial, open-minded but, initially at least, easily led.

Both want to escape their lives and the identity that has been prescribed for them.

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Review: F*ck You Pay Me, Bunker Theatre - lifting the lid on life working as a stripper

Backstage there is camaraderie among the strippers and 'office' politics, personal dramas and worries just like any place of work.

Fuck You Pay Me  The Bunker (Credit David Monteith Hodge) Joana Nastari (2)
Joana Nastari  F*ck You Pay Me The Bunker. Photo: David Monteith Hodge

There's a DJ deck and DJ (Charlotte Bickley), faux fur walls and palm trees and three mini circular stages. This is a strip club, Holly's (Joana Nastari) place of work and she'll take us behind the scenes to her world as a stripper to see the good, the bad and the ugly aspects.

Holly isn't student who needs the cash, neither is she paying for a drug addict, she likes the work, the flexibility of it and can earn good money.

Her job title maybe stripper but that means she is also in sales, marketing, PR, acting and dancing but she doesn't have the same level of workers rights.

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Review: Class, Bush Theatre - classroom and class tensions

Class layers marital tensions with social class tensions and the pressures of being a teacher and learning.

L-r Sarah Morris  Stephen Jones and Will O'Connell   in 'CLASS' photo by_Helen Murray 73B&W
L-r Sarah Morris, Stephen Jones and Will O'Connell in 'CLASS'. Photo: Helen Murray

Brian (Stephen Jones) and Donna (Sarah Morris) are separated but having to put on a united front for the sake of their 9-year-old son Jayden who is having problems at school.

They've been called in to see Jayden's teacher Mr McCafferty (Will O'Connell) but classrooms hold bad memories for both of them.

As Mr McCafferty nervously broaches the subject of Jayden's learning difficulties feathers are ruffled and someone shows they have a chip on their shoulder.

Set entirely in Jayden's classroom, the walls a tempting chalkboard, sitting on the little chairs literally and figuratively brings the adults down to a child's level. 

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Review: The Half God of Rainfall, Kiln Theatre - Battling deities, basketball and a god for modern women

In the same way that the Marvel Universe mixes superpowers with mortal flaws, the scope of The Half God of Rainfall stretches to another galaxy but all the time remains profoundly human.

Kwami-Odoom-and-Rakie-Ayola-in-Inua-Ellams-The-Half-God-of-Rainfall-c-Dan-Tsantilis-2
Kwami Odoom and Rakie Ayola in Inua Ellams' The Half God of Rainfall. Photo: Dan Tsantilis

Inua Ellams' play The Half God of Rainfall at the Kiln Theatre is an epic battle of gods from Greek and Yoruba myths anchored in contemporary culture by the sport of basketball and a bit of girl power.

Given the god-like status afforded sporting stars - if you are a fan of basketball there are plenty of nods - it's not a huge leap from battles on the court to battles among deities.

#metoo and mythology

And neither is it a leap from the #metoo campaign to the abused women of Greek mythology.

Straddling the realms of gods and humans is Demi (Kwami Odoom) born out of the violent rape of his mortal mother Modupe (Rakie Ayola) and thunder god Zeus.

Rakie-Ayola-in-Inua-Ellams-The-Half-God-of-Rainfall-c-Dan-Tsantilis-8
Rakie Ayola in Inua Ellams' The Half God of Rainfall. Photo: Dan Tsantilis

Demi's emotions can make it rain to the point of flooding and he also has a god-like knack for scoring basketball hoops.

However, he lives in times when the gods feel easily threatened by powers beyond their own and status.

Protection from jealousy

His fiercely protective and devoted mother takes him from his small village in Nigeria to the US to keep him out of the way but when Demi becomes a star basketball player Zeus's jealousy puts him in danger.

Ellams script paints a vivid picture that is both intimate and epic and it wouldn't work as well if not for the skilful performances of Odoom and Ayola.

Kwami-Odoom-in-Inua-Ellams-The-Half-God-of-Rainfall-c-Dan-Tsantilis-4
Kwami Odoom in Inua Ellams' The Half God of Rainfall. Photo: Dan Tsantilis

They effortlessly mix the stature of ancient myth with a contemporary inflection.

Demi is, for the most part, a kid with innocent wonder, sometimes petulant, sometimes cheeky but with a good heart.

However, it is Modupe who, in channelling the power of a mother's love and female exasperation at the male ego, the violence and abuse, proves the hero.

She is a god for modern women.

Powers and flaws

In the same way that the Marvel Universe mixes superpowers with mortal flaws, the scope of The Half God of Rainfall stretches to another galaxy but all the time remains profoundly human.

It is one hour and 20 minutes without an interval and I'm giving it ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.

See it at the Kiln Theatre until 17 May.

You might also like to read:

Interview: Libby Liburd and Cathy Tyson talk about writing and performing in women's boxing drama Fighter.

From the archive: How the theatre obsession started as explained in my first Rev Stan's Theatre blog post.